Mountain Climbing

Denali Expedition

Denali Mountain covered with snow

Location: Alaska, USA.  At the Denali National Park and Reserve, which has a surface area of 24,464 km2 and is 290km away from Anchorage.

Elevation: 20,310 ft. / 6190 m

Best time to climb:

Being icy year-round, summer makes an ideal time to climb the mountain, especially between May and July. The average daytime temperature during this season is at 19°C, and often below zero at night and high altitudes.

In August, the peak sees snowfalls and storms, and the temperature can drop to -10 to -20°C in the winter season. The cold season can run into late March and even early April, which means the mountain sees a very short spring.

It is a prerequisite to have a certain level of expertise when climbing Denali besides summertime.

Typical activities in the area during winter include cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and winter camping.

How long is the climb?

The length of the days that you will be spending varies depending on the weather conditions and your trekking experience. But climbing Denali usually takes nearly two weeks because going to and from the mountain in itself may take a few days.

Climate may further delay the climb; therefore, guided programs are helpful. It usually takes three weeks long, and sometimes a bit more, to account for acclimatization and to include extra days in case of delays.

Main Routes in Climbing the Mountain

Overlook of Denali mountain within the Denali National Park

There are four main routes to the summit of Denali:

  • West Buttress

This is considered the easiet and safest route to the mountain. It usually starts from Kahiltna Glacier, where a plane can drop you off to a base where a camp manager is living year-round. The route contains least avalanche risk and crevices making it the most straightforward trail to the summit.

  • Muldrow Glacier

This route starts from the north in the direction of Muldrow Glacier and joins the West Buttress Route at the Denali Pass before the final stretch to the summit. It is the standard way to the top of Denali and as tricky as the West Buttress. There are no airplane landings on the north side making a more challenging logistics.

  • West Rib

This is a three-mile long ridge rising dramatically from an 11, 000 feet base. Despite starting at the same point with the West Buttress, this route takes a more challenging path to the peak of Denali because it involves passing through the “Valley of Death” and crossing the snow domes.

From its 9000 feet vertical rise is a full range of snow and ice climbing challenges, from ascents and traverses of narrowly winding crests, to sustained technical challenge on 55-degree ice faces.  The route has a dramatic outline and nearly direct rise to the mountain’s summit adding to its appeal.

  • Cassin Ridge

This is the newest but the most difficult route which include a 2 400 meter sustained climbing, going by the “Valley of Death,” crossing the Knife Edge Ridge of blue ice, rock climbing, and ice climbing. This is accessed from the south is only advisable for highly skilled professional climbers.

Facts about Denali Mountain

Denali Mountain blanketed with thick glaciers

Standing as the highest peak in North America, Denali is one of the most notable in sheer mass, weather, and climbing history. Climbers with intermediate skills can climb the classic West Buttress Route, requiring patience, perseverance, and intense physical exertion. Indeed, it’s a real ascent and a demanding climb.

Denali Mountain is a centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve situated in the Alaska Range in the interior of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is also known in its former official name as Mount McKinley. Its peak reaches an elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in the North of America.

Denali is the third most prominent and third most isolated peak on Earth due to its topographic prominence of 20,156 feet and a topographic isolation of 4,629 miles, following after Mount Everest and Aconcagua.

A brief history 

It was the Koyukon people who have inhabited the area around the mountain centuries ago have called the peak as “Denali.” A gold prospector in support of then-presidential candidate William McKinley in 1896 named the mountain as Mount McKinley. It was then officially recognized as Mt. McKinley from 1917 to 2015 by the United States Federal government. However, following the 1975 lead of the State of Alaska, the United States Department of the Interior announced the change of the mountain’s official name to Denali in August 2015.

The first attempt to climb the mountain includes James Wickersham in 1903, but he did not succeed. It was followed by Frederick Cook in 1906, who claimed the first ascent, but it was questioned since it was not verified.

On June 7, 1913, with climbers Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, Walter Harper, and Robert Tatum, made the first confirmable ascent to Denali’s summit. Bradford Washburn pioneered the West Buttress route in 1951. It is now known as the easiest and safest route and the most popular to climbers.

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